Horror

Into the Forest

Tom Tom/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on January 8, 2019.

It ended with the wind.

The sky had been overcast all morning, and a deep, abiding cold had permeated the air. The elders of my village warned me not to enter the forest, but it’d taken my brother, and I would not let it claim my only sibling for its own.

“If you won’t stay home where it’s safe,” Grandma pleaded, “at least take this.” She handed me a woolen cloak, which I draped over my head gratefully, and told me not to stay out past sunset, brother or no brother. “It’ll do us no good,” she said, “if the forest decides to take you, too.” She hugged me as if for the last time, then sent me out into the gloom to face the trees alone.

I believed I’d win, that I’d find my brother curled at the trunk of a tree, or hidden beneath a rock for shelter, and that, like so many of the heroes Master Gideon tells stories about by the light of a late-night fire, I’d emerge from the brambles and the trees triumphant, my brother in tow, ready to tell stories of my own.

But the forest had other plans.

By increments, the sky grew darker, and what started as a light, clinging mist soon turned into a drizzle. The drizzle turned into a downpour, and before I knew what had happened, the sky became a blazing torrent of thunder and lightning.

I scrambled over steep hills, tripped over gnarled roots and upturned stones, scratched my limbs against low hanging branches and thorny brambles. All the while, I pressed on, blind to pain and exhaustion, dead set on finding my brother.

Then the wind came, a violent, world-ending gale that knocked me off balance and stopped me in my tracks. I let loose a hailstorm of curses, but the forest was unyielding. Cold, weary, and out of breath, I had no choice but to huddle against a nearby tree and hug myself for warmth.

For centuries, my people had lived in fear of the forest and its ancient powers. But when its diabolical whims had culminated in the abduction of my brother, I was sure that I could best it, that somehow, the brash exuberance of youth could overpower its dark and terrifying magic.

Now, as the forest closed in around me, I discovered the awful truth, that it was no use fighting such raw, elemental strength. I’d been a fool to think myself superior to the forest, and it would punish me for my pride.

Just as I was ready to succumb to the will of the woods, a light caught the corner of my eye. I turned, and a pair of glowing green pupils looked back. I peered into their depths, and as whatever creature they belonged to edged closer, I knew that wherever the forest had taken my brother, I would soon join him.

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Katie’s Secret

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Little Katie Morgan has a secret and she’s not telling. Not her father, not her mother, not her brothers or her sisters. There are many things Katie’s not good at, but keeping secrets isn’t one of them.

How would the world react if it learned the truth that was revealed to her? She imagines the rioting in the streets, the talking heads on the news, and sometimes, when she’s afraid, she hums the tune of the song the witch across the street taught her when she was four years old.

“An ancient song,” the witch said while Katie lounged in her garden, basking in the sun and watching the woman pick a handful of long-stemmed roses.

Katie didn’t know what ancient meant, but judging by the witch’s expression, it must have been important.

“You remember those words,” the woman said, and Katie, eager to please her elderly friend, repeated words whose meaning she would never understand until the witch was confident she wouldn’t forget.

“That song will save you,” said the witch, “when the time for the world to change comes again.”

Katie asked what she meant, and the witch, after making her promise not to reveal her secret, recounted the story of a great cataclysm yet to unfold.

There are nights when Katie dreams of what she was told, nights when visions of the dark and the macabre process before her sleeping eyes like float’s in Hell’s parade.

Sometimes she screams, and sometimes her mother checks to see if she’s all right. Katie just nods her head, white as a ghost, and her mother, frightened by what she sees in her daughter’s too large eyes, pads off to bed and entertains nightmares of her own.

The world is changing, so says the witch. But that’s a secret and Katie’s not telling.

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Happily Ever After

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This post was originally published through Patreon on December 18, 2018.

Happily ever after.

The cliché mocked Samuel in the moldering darkness of his one-bedroom apartment. A fairy tale ending, saccharin sweet, and so unlike the reality of human life.

Happily ever after.

It was a lie told to little children to shield them from the dark, sinister truths of the world, and perhaps also a lie told to adults too weak to face their problems head-on. In either case, it was a con man’s ruse, as plastic and artificial as a G.I. Joe action figure.

Happily ever after.

Once upon a time, Samuel had tried his own luck at “Happily ever after.” And what had it gotten him? A low paying job and a lonely, miserable life. No family, no friends, no wife or children.

But that was about to change.

Happily ever after.

The accursed phrase had been the object of Samuel’s obsession for almost thirty years. Every day, as he fought rush hour traffic, as he toiled at a job he couldn’t care less about, as he stopped at the groceries to buy his microwave dinners, he mulled over those perverse words, a slow, acid churn that never stopped until he turned out the light and allowed his bitterness to assault him in his dreams.

That was when the demon had visited and made Sammuel an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Happily ever after.

That was the wicked creature’s proposal, and Samuel hadn’t paid a moment’s notice to the price.

“A wish granted,” the demon snarled, “in exchange for a kind thought turned sour. A harmless enough cost, I should think, and a chance to live—”

Happily ever after.

And Samuel had wished, and Samuel had watched each one of his desires spring to life.

What an extraordinary power, he thought, and in the heat of his excitement, he didn’t see the change that took place inside of him.

A harmless enough cost, the demon had said, and it had seemed at the time that he was right. In Samuel’s elation, how was he to notice his desires turning dark, his wishes turning vindictive, his own definition of “Happily ever after” turning more and more twisted by the day?

Now, Samuel had conceived of the ultimate wish, and all he had to do was summon the demon one last time.

Just one more wish, and in the ashes of a smoldering post-apocalyptic world, Samuel could, at last, live—

Happily ever after.

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